Early test for XC
For the first time this year the Vandal men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete with their full squads as they prepare to run in the Sundodger Invitational Sept. 15, at the University of Washington.Idaho used teams consisting mostly of freshman in the first meet of the season so the Sundodger will be the first meet of the year for most of the veteran runners.
“Some of the veterans haven’t raced in a long time,” Idaho coach Wayne Phipps said. “We redshirted a couple of the people (in outdoor track and field) so it’s been months and months more than what it is normally between races.”
Idaho’s best runners on both the men’s and women’s teams, senior Barry Britt and junior Hannah Kiser, redshirted the 2012 outdoor track and field season.
“I haven’t competed in an Idaho jersey since February so I’m really excited,” Britt said. “Cross country is my favorite season so I’m itching to get started.”
The Sundodger Invitational will be a competitive meet featuring several schools from the Pacific Northwest. The Huskies will be the favorites in front of their home crowd as they’re the No. 2 team in the nation on the women’s side and the No. 10 team on the men’s side.
“UW is always tough,” Britt said. “It’s exciting to go up against them. Last year we gave them a little bit of a scare.”
Phipps said the Sundodger is a high quality meet for this early in the season. The Vandals will face tougher competition as the year goes on, but the Sundodger will be a tough early test. The course is mostly flat which makes it a low injury risk course. Since it is the same course every year, the veteran runners can compare their times to those of the previous Sundodger Invitational meets and use it as a gauge of their improvement.
“We’ll kind of use this as a test to see where we are a little bit,” Phipps said. “We’ve definitely bumped up the training over last year so everyone in really good shape, but probably coming in a little bit tired.”
One advantage the Vandals have competing in Seattle is their training in higher climates. After training in hilly areas, rough terrain and high climates, the mostly flat meet at sea level will feel a lot easier, Phipps said.
Britt is the top returner on the men’s side for the Vandals. He joins fellow senior Jeff Osborn and a talented group of younger runners.
On the women’s side, four of the top five runners are returning including Kiser, who competed in the 2011 NCAA Championships.
“You learn a lot from that first race,” Phipps said. “I really think this race will help us in preparation for the meets down the road. You’re always guaranteed really good competition (at UW).”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at email@example.com